Want to Die? Call 911 & Hold a Closed Multi-Purpose Tool

You would think that university police would have such great mental health training — given that they are dealing with a population of young adults exploring limits, learning about themselves, and one of the groups at the greatest risk for a first-episode incident of mental illness.

Apparently not at Georgia Tech. This is a school where I would never send my child, given the most recent incident of a person with mental illness being killed — rather than being counseled — in mid-September. One second of poor judgment on an officer’s part, and suddenly an entire life is snuffed out. Not because a criminal was threatening anyone (other than himself) with harm. But simply because the man — Scout Schultz — had a mental illness.

The Associated Press has the sad story:

Police shot and killed Scout Schultz late Saturday night [September 16, 2017] after the 21-year-old student called 911 to report an armed and possibly intoxicated suspicious person, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said.

The GBI has said an officer responding to a 911 call about 11:17 p.m. Saturday shot Schultz as the student advanced on officers with a knife and refused commands to put down the knife. Stewart said Monday that the GBI confirmed to him that Schultz was holding a multipurpose tool and that the knife blade was not out.

Schultz was the one who called 911, GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said in an emailed statement Monday.

“In the call, Shultz describes the person as a white male, with long blonde hair, white T-shirt and blue jeans who is possibly intoxicated, holding a knife and possibly armed with a gun on his hip,” Miles said, adding that three suicide notes were found in Schultz’s dorm room.

Investigators recovered a multi-purpose tool at the scene but didn’t find any guns, Miles said.

So… You respond to the scene of a 911 call only to find the person who made the call is the person who is in distress and in need of assistance. Empathy. Compassion. And is in no danger to the responding officers, given that the multi-purpose tool he’s holding is closed.

Instead of providing those things, the ridiculously short-sighted, narrow-minded Georgia Tech campus police responded by shooting the student dead. Would you send your child to a school where, if he or she suffered from mental illness, you might lose your child to a trigger-happy campus police officer?

Flanked by Schultz’s parents Monday morning, Stewart said the officer who shot Schultz overreacted. Schultz was having a breakdown and was suicidal but if the officer had used non-lethal force rather than shooting, Schultz could have received treatment and gotten better, Stewart said. […]

Georgia Tech police don’t carry stun guns, but are equipped with pepper spray, a spokesman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

So on a college campus police are happy to carry deadly guns but not non-lethal stun guns? Sure, that makes sense, Georgia Tech.

Lynne Schultz [the victim’s mother] told the Journal-Constitution over the weekend that her oldest child had struggled with depression and attempted suicide two years ago using a belt as a noose.

After that, Scout Schultz went through counseling, William Schultz said. Scout Schultz spent this past summer at home and there were no obvious problems when school resumed last month, the elder Schultz said.

Way to go, Georgia Tech!

I am just so speechless as to how or why such an incident can still happen, when our understanding of mental illness has advanced so greatly in the past few decades. Millions of police officers have undergone mental health crisis training and learned how to de-escalate situations such as this. You would think that Georgia Tech’s police officers would be among such a group of people — but apparently not all of them.

I do want to acknowledge that it was a single officer — Tyler Beck — who was responsible for this reprehensible crime against a person with a mental illness. The other officers who responded to the call apparently acted professionally and within the expectations and standards of professional police conduct in trying to help a person with mental illness.

Sadly, it only takes one bad apple to sour you off the whole bunch.

Police would do well to distance themselves from individual officers who seemingly can’t or won’t abide by de-escalation procedures in situations of this nature. Instead of defending every officer’s actions, we need to recognize that sometimes officers make poor judgment calls — and they should be held accountable for such poor judgment.

Because if we can’t trust public safety to, well, take care of the safety of the public — which includes all people, even those with mental illness — then we’ve come to a sad crossroads in modern society. And especially on a university campus, where one would expect such professionals to be of the highest caliber, with the greatest training to help those they are sworn to protect — the very students of Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech horribly failed Scout Schultz, and it should be ashamed of itself for the unprofessional conduct of one its officers.1

 

Read the original article: 3 arrested during protest at Georgia Tech after vigil

Washington Post: Audio released of 911 call by Georgia Tech student killed by police

Footnotes:

  1. And it’s craven and cowardly that Georgia Tech is failing to publicly identify the officer who murdered Schultz. Because he was apparently brandishing only a closed multi-purpose tool. []